My Top 10 Favorite Writing Facebook Groups/Pages

As writers, we constantly hear how we need to have an online presence. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Goodreads, Tumblr, etc., the more people we can connect with, the better our book sales. But exploring pages and finding a writing community can be difficult when you don’t know where to start, or you’re introverted like I am. So I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 favorite writing Facebook Groups/Pages that have helped me find a community, get published, create a marketing plan for myself, and much, much more.

1. Write.Publish.Sell: Created by Alexa Bigwarfe, Write.Publish.Sell is an excellent place to go if you’re trying to figure out how to publish your manuscript from the ground up. She describes it as, “a place for writers who need help and support with writing, publishing, and marketing your book.” Bigwarfe provides tons of tutorials, posts, and other resources on her website, where one of my own blog posts appears. Her group also posts daily encouragements or prompts Monday-Friday: Monday Blogs, Tell Us Tuesday, Wednesday Promo, Ambassador Tips Thursday, Friday Social. It’s a fantastic way to connect with other authors, learn about them, promote your books or blog, and get help with your writing. She has paid services through her website, too, if you need more than what her free help can offer.

Bigwarfe’s knowledge and connection with authors has also helped her create the Women In Publishing Summit which runs from March 2-8, 2020 this year. The first online writing and publishing conference dedicated to women, the Women in Publishing Summit is a FREE 5-day online conference, featuring over 40 authors, publishers, editors, graphic artists, marketers, book sellers, mindset coaches, & more!  You can register through the event here. I’m one of the speakers this years, and you’ll get to learn all about how to find writing contests. Seriously, it’s a great resource.

2. Socially Aware Fiction Writers: Created by Yukimi Wintel, this group is “for people who love writing imaginative fiction and want to make sure they are being representative without being offensive.” While the page is geared more towards fantasy and sci-fi, writers of other/multiple genres are welcome to participate if they have questions. I’ve discussed many times how it’s important to have a sensitivity reader if you write about characters outside your lane. This is one place to turn to, and you don’t have to be afraid to ask questions. Just be willing to be open minded about the responses. I love this page because they actually helped me better develop my character Shen Yanlei in Wolf Pit. Now, keep in mind, this is just one form of research you can do when writing about diverse characters. Be kind, respectful, and understand that when you ask a question, you may be surprised by the answers. 

3. The Mixtus Media Meet-Up / Mixtus Media: This has been one of my go-to sites since I first started promoting my Purple Door District series. Created by Jenn Hanson-dePaula and Marcus dePaula, Mixtus Media focuses on helping “authors navigate book marketing with a simple personalized process that works.” They post blogs on Instagram and Facebook that I have found invaluable during my marketing process. I actually originally found them on Instagram. They cover tons of marketing topics such as, “How to Market Your Book if You’re an Introvert,” “One Month of Instagram Posts for Authors,” “How Authors Can Consistently Sell Books- Even after the Release,” “70 Conversation Starters to Boost Social Media Engagement,” and more. Their site is what inspired my blog entry “Engaging Your Readers.” All their material is free, but as with Bigwarfe, they do provide paid services as well. 

4. Fiction-Atlas Author Builders and Promotions: Do you want to build your newsletter audience and meet new readers? This is the place to go. Created by C.L. Cannon, this group “is specifically for promotions and builders offered by” Cannon “and Fiction-Atlas Press.” These builders include Newsletters, Bookbub, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook likes, etc. She’s constantly running these events to help authors grow their reader base. In the past year of working on just a few of these builders, I’ve gained 2,000 people on my newsletter! And the best part is that they’re reasonably priced, coming in anywhere between $10 and $20 depending on how much information you want to promote yourself. Cannon also runs Fiction-Atlas Press LLC and has published several incredible anthologies. I was in her “Unknown Realm” book last year. She has two more anthologies open this year which you can find under Submissions.  She’s currently accepting pieces. 

5. The Otherworld Home Community: Created by Tamara Rokicki, The Otherworld “is a growing platform in the literary community. Serving as the main hub and home center, it hosts portals that facilitate members into reading and writing worlds.” I’ve been part of this group since near the beginning, and I’ve met many fantastic authors. The Otherworld has released three anthologies and hosts a Book of the Month group where readers can talk about the book together and win prizes. Rokicki has also put on several amazing launch parties that have helped authors promote their books while also showcasing the upcoming anthology. I was recently selected as a resident author, and I can tell you we have some fun plans for the future. 

6. Indie Author Book Expo: Need a way to set up signing events? Then you should definitely check out IABE! Created by Jenn Thompson, IABE is a “nonprofit devoted to uniting readers, writers, and authors to build better books.” The daughter group IABE Must Have Books! allows you to promote your novels. Thompson works tirelessly to create signing events for local authors around the Midwest. She started in Des Moines and is booking events in Mason City, Peoria, Chicago, Omaha, and hopefully even more to come! She’s a friend to authors and brings writers together through her site. She’s also published anthologies and is trying to get a printing press to help make publication easier for writers. 

7. Rising Tide Publications: I’d be remiss not to mention this group created by Brian K Morris who has become a mentor to me. He encourages authors to lift one another so we all rise together, an ideology that I can get behind. His mission is to “provide positive entertainment in books and comics and to provide assistance to other creatives with low/no-cost solutions whenever possible, and encouragement always.” He runs two live shows every week where you can promote your books and get to meet other authors.  If you have a fundraiser or book event happening, he’s one of the first to promote it. He’s never afraid to offer advice and a kind ear. 

8. The Writers’ Rooms: Of course I need to mention the Writers’ Rooms. The Writers’ Rooms is a non-profit corporation that focuses on providing a free, safe environment to all writers. Essentially, we’re writers helping writers. In Iowa, we provide two-hour sessions that include a literary lesson and an hour of writing throughout the month.  You can find multiple groups through The Writers’ Rooms Facebook page based on different genres like Fantasy/Sci-fi, Poetry, Horror/Mystery, All-Genre, Romance, and also LGBT-based groups. We have a big author signing event happening later this year (applications are now open) and we produce anthologies for Iowa writers. As the Director of the organization, I try to provide helpful information to our group members and other authors through the main page. And what you can’t find there, you can usually find contests, events, and more in our individual groups. 

9. The Iowa Writers’ House:  Founded by Andrea Wilson, The Iowa Writers’ House is another incredible organization with the mission to “provide writers with the support and necessary tools to bring their literary dreams to fruition. From lectures and inspiration, to first putting pen to the page, to seminars on tips and how-to’s for the publishing world and everything in between, the Iowa Writers’ House exists as a writing launchpad for all who seek it.” IWH has consistently put on fascinating workshops hosted by published authors and professionals. Writers from all around the US have come to learn the tools of writing and build a literary community. You can check out workshops here. More recently, they have hosted a residency for Bicultural & Immigrant Writers in Iowa, publishing and distributing their voices through anthologies titled We the Interwoven. If you ever have questions, you can always ask me since I’ve been a volunteer practically since the beginning. 

10. Fantasy Writers Support Group:  Founded by Beth F Brownell, the Fantasy Writers Support Group is exactly that, a group “designed to assist authors in writing.” It’s a great way to find support for fantasy writers. You can ask questions, they provide tips, promotions, display book covers, allow you to discuss the world you’re building, etc. They have specific rules about when to post things, so make sure you check out their about page. If you’re a fantasy writer, this is one you’ll want to follow. 

I hope that these groups and pages help you find more ways to show off your writing, learn literary tips, and meet fellow writers and readers. I’m considering creating a group myself to help other writers. What things do you look for in writing groups/pages? 

The Year I Almost Lost

TW: Mention of suicide/suicidal thoughts

It’s difficult to explain depression and anxiety to people who don’t struggle with it. A person might seem perfectly fine on the outside, but inwardly, they could be fighting a constant battle that leaves them teetering on the edge of life and death. The mind, just like the rest of the body, can get very sick and make it seem like there’s no end to the pain. No light at the end of the tunnel. 

My readers know I’m not typically shy when it comes to discussing depression and anxiety. Suicidal thoughts is a harder topic to go over, though. I don’t want to scare people who are close to me who think I might go off the deep end. And for those who look up to me and think I’m strong, I don’t want them to feel, “Well, if she can’t handle it, then how can I?” The mind is such a beautiful, wonderful thing, but that doesn’t stop the darkness from creeping in. And what I want to talk about isn’t so much why I almost ended my life, but rather, why I celebrate that I didn’t. 

On February 2nd, 2019, after drowning under waves and waves of depression, something snapped. I don’t know how to explain it, but it was like all the dark thoughts I’d been having suddenly coalesced into this monster that told me to end my life. I came very close, but at the last second, I stopped myself. I met with a friend for tea, and when I explained what had happened, she encouraged me to go into the mental institution to make sure I didn’t hurt myself. I fought her on it, claiming I was fine (even though I wasn’t), but eventually I relented and went with her to the hospital. 

And it was the best decision I could have made. 

For the first time in a long while, I felt like I was safe from myself and from the world. I could breathe a little better, and my thoughts didn’t drag me across burning coals as much as they had. I also learned I had a UTI and developed cellulitis, which didn’t help with the whole situation. But the former might have explained a little more why I wasn’t able to fight the suicidal thoughts. Between health/physical problems, Seasonal Depression, lack of sleep, anxiety, and general feelings of unworthiness and loneliness, I could barely fight it. 

The past two weeks, I’ve felt the depression creep into my mind as I reflected on the fact that the one-year anniversary was coming up. But then I thought, why should I greet it with sorrow? Why not celebrate what this past year has given me? True, there were a lot of uphill fights and bad things that happened, mostly health related, but what about all the good? 

For one thing, I’ve been able to spend time with my family. I’ve watched my baby cousins (who call me auntie) blossom and grow into lovely young girls. I visited family I hadn’t seen in months and cherished the time we spent together. It made me even more grateful to have them in my life. 

I’ve watched the lives of my friends change for the better. Marriages, children, new loves, getting into grad school, going on an overseas adventure, getting published, getting promoted, new pets, new journeys…I’ve loved sharing their stories, and I’m thankful I’m around to see them happen. 

In the past year, I’ve been published more than I’ve ever been before. I put out a new book, appeared in several anthologies (some paid), became an ambassador for a writing site, taught at my alma mater, met fans of my series, and became a resident author for another site. I’ve had the opportunity to work with aspiring writers and watch them find their voice in their books. And I’ve traveled for the first time to sell my books and meet other creative people. My world is growing, even when it sometimes feels so small. 

I’ve watched the organizations I’m leading (The Writers’ Rooms), or part of (Iowa Writers’ House), continue to blossom as we bring more people into the literary fold. I’ve had to let some things go and welcome new opportunities into my life, but at least I’m still here to make those decisions. I’ve helped publish anthologies and put on a huge author signing event to support other authors, and it feels really good to have accomplished all that. 

And in the past year, I’ve started to learn the importance of self-care. Working with my sleep specialist (and now my therapist), has helped me go from about 2-4 hours of sleep each night to closer to 7 hours. I’m using therapy lights during the winter when the months are usually rough for me to help stave off the depression. I’m trying to get back to the gym and eat better for both mental and physical health. I’m talking with support groups and forcing myself to shut down at a certain time each night so I get downtime and I don’t work on my computer until 2 or 3 am on a work night. So for those who have seen my work progress slow a little, it’s to help me take care of myself. 

There have also been fun experiences the past year that I never would have had, some small, some bigger. Things like getting to see Star Wars IX and Cats with my Dad and Frozen 2 (along with annoying the crap out of friends while playing the music over and over again). Reliving my childhood years by going to an arcade with my friend. Going clothes shopping or to the movies with people I care about. Snuggling with my birds everyday and being glad I’m still here to do that (even if I get feathers in my nose or get bombed by the occasional morning poop). Finally playing Mario Maker, basically the one thing I enjoy without trying to turn it over into a profit. Oh, and I’m a huge nerd when it comes to Merge Dragons and PokemonGo. Belting out the lyrics to Hamilton in the car even if I ruin most of them (plus finding out that Hamilton is going to become a movie!). 

Politically, I’ve gone to protests and marches. I’ve raised my voice against injustice and stood by my friends as we’ve fought to make this world a better place. And I did that again last night by caucusing. In a world divided, I saw people come together and support their candidates as well as each other. 

And, of course, I’ve had the opportunity to share my stories with all of you through my blog. 

This past weekend, I celebrated life by getting a much-needed massage, purchasing a new couch (finally), spending time with my friends either gushing over musicals or watching Maleficent and baking brownies. And I slept. 

365 days. 525,600 minutes. Imagine just how many experiences you can have in that time, and I almost let that go. 

I’m glad I didn’t.

I still battle the depression and anxiety, but I’ve gained tools to help work through the feelings. And, there’s a saying that I found that really holds true: Whenever you think you can’t make it through the day, just remember, your success rate is 100%. 

Be kind to yourselves, my friends. Cherish each day. Enjoy the little things, and know that you matter. 

Should You Create Characters After Yourself?

I’m sure you’ve heard the joke: be careful not to tick off a writer, she might turn you into a character and kill you. It’s pretty common for authors to create characters based on people they’ve run into in their daily lives. Maybe they borrow aspects from them (an interest, a talent, a job) and insert them into new characters in their books. But what about turning yourself into a character? Is it a good idea, or are you running the risk of making the book too personal?

Memoirs and biographies aside, writers generally try to create new characters for their books rather than inserting themselves or their own life stories into the pages. However, this trope can be pretty common in the fanfiction world. People fall in love with a movie or book and dream about wanting to live in a world with them, so suddenly author Jenna becomes Harriet in the book with possibly the same appearance, likes, and loves as the actual author, with some embellishments (maybe the character is prettier, more popular, etc). It comes as no surprise when she becomes best friends with the main characters. This is how Mary Sues and Gary Stu sometime come into existence.

Now, that’s not to say that a person’s life makes them a Mary Sue/Gary Stu, but it’s a common factor when someone puts themselves in a fanfic work. Long story short, “Mary Sue is a term used to describe a fictional character, usually female, who is seen as too perfect and almost boring for lack of flaws, originally written as an idealized version of an author in fanfiction” – Dictionary.com. Gary Stu is the male equivalent. These types of characters appear in non-fanfiction work as well (there have been arguments about whether Luke Skwalker or Rey are Mary/Gary). So if you decide to write yourself into your story, be careful to avoid these kinds of tropes. There are a ton of quizzes that you can take to find out if a character qualifies as a Mary Sue or Gary Stu.

Other ways people write themselves into stories is to make themselves a person that they want to be. Perhaps the author struggles with anxiety so he creates a powerful character who isn’t afraid of anything. Someone may feel like she’s not beautiful so she designs her character the mirror opposite. It’s a writer’s way of seeing themselves in a different or “better” light. While this isn’t inherently bad, it can still lead down the path of a cliche character.

When it comes to my own writing, none of my characters are exactly like me, but some of my personal traits do end up in some of my lovelies. That’s not to say that I’m trying to make myself into a character, it’s just both more meaningful and a little easier to write about someone who has had my experiences. For example, Tess from PDD and Wolf Pit, struggles with anxiety (maybe not to the level I do) and we take the same medication. She also loves musicals, especially Sweeney Todd (shout out to my dad who introduced it to me). Am I Tess? No. But I took some personal parts of myself and added them to the character. In the third PDD book (don’t worry, no spoilers), I’m developing a character named Evelyn who is obese 1. because we don’t have enough of those characters represented in books and 2. because it’s nice to see myself represented. Shen Yanlei, a new character in Wolf Pit, has a father who works at the Diamond Headache Clinic of Chicago. I chose that because I’ve been there for my own chronic migraines. Again, I take elements of myself and add them in, but I don’t make the characters completely like me. I think it’s fun to include those little easter eggs to see if people who know me catch it.

The danger of making a character after yourself is 1. you run the risk of making them too 1 dimensional like with Mary/Gary, and 2. if someone critiques your character, it  becomes a lot more personal. How many of us clutch our books to ourselves like our precious children when people tell us something’s wrong with them? It happens to everyone. Now imagine if you made someone after yourself entirely and a reader said the character was boring, unbelievable, or dumb. It’s hard enough not to take that personally as the author, but to have it said about you in your own book? Ouch.

So what do you do? What if you really want to put yourself in a book, is it really all that bad? As with every writing element, how you do it determines a good or bad outcome. Maybe only include some elements of yourself and make the rest unique. Use your own personal experiences that can add flavor to the story rather than taking it over. Write it for yourself personally with not intentions of publishing it (goodness knows I have plenty of tales that will never see the light of day). Practice with it and see if close friends or family can point out whether this character is like you or not. If you turn yourself into a character and that person is unique, has a purpose, and fleshed out, then maybe it isn’t a problem.

What about you? Do you write characters that resemble you? Do you think it’s a good or bad thing to do?

My Writing Process: Help! My Outline Exploded!

I love learning about people’s writing styles. I’m used to the typical question, are you a plotter, pantser, or plantser? Basically, do you plot your story,  write by the seat of your pants, or do a little of both?

I personally identify as a plantser. It doesn’t matter how detailed my outline is, my characters like to derail the story and drag me screaming down another path…usually through brambles, rocks, and sharp pointy things.

They’re jerks.

But there’s so much more behind my process than what I generally talk about. Some plantsers edit at the end of their writing. Some edit while they write. Some skip around chapters, while others write linearly. So I’m going to talk a bit about what I personally do to write, and edit, my manuscripts.

Writing: The ‘What the Hell Am I Doing’ Journey

The Outline: 

It starts with an outline. I sit down and create a rough draft idea of what I want the story to be from beginning to end. I create character lists and add in tiny descriptions if I have them locked in my mind. Sometimes I leave the skeleton of the outline alone and start writing. More often than not, though, I blow the bullet points up into paragraph summaries of each chapter. It helps me flesh out the idea, see where characters are going to go, make sure I don’t have plot holes, etc. Though, I also have the “I have no idea what happens here” bullet points because, let’s face it, sometimes you just don’t know what happens in the middle.

Once that’s complete, I start writing. I’m the type of person who has to write linearly (I hate jumping to different chapters). I’m afraid I’ll miss something or mess up the plot. I usually stick to the outline closely in the beginning. I jot down character descriptions or important little notes and go about my merry little life, feeling productive and like I know exactly what I’m doing.

Enter The Character. 

For the sake of the rest of the blog, we’ll just call her Djinn…because sometimes when you’re hoping for a plot, you have to be careful what you wish for.

The Pantsing: 

So the story is going along swimmingly and then something like this happens.

Djinn: Hey…how ya doing? I see you’ve got a little novel there. That’s nice. That’s nice…Got a second?

Me: What? I’m trying to write

Djinn: Yeahhh, about that. You know your bad guy? Yeah, he’s secretly a good guy.

Me: Wait, what?

Djinn: And the protagonist? She’s in love with her best friend’s brother.

Me: Hang on now.

Djinn: And you know that character who’s a toss away and you don’t even have a name for? Yeah, that’s me. And I need my own story line. You see, I’m actually the main character’s best friend, and I help fuel this section of the story and-

Me: What? NO!

Djinn: Come on! Give me a story line! I’m begging you. If you don’t, I’m just going to keep popping up every other scene and ask ‘Is it my turn yet? Is it my turn yet? Is it my turn yet? Is it my turn yet?’

Me: Stop it

Djinn: Is it my turn yet?

Me: Oh my god, FINE! I’ll write you in. Can you go away now?

Djinn: Of course…of course.

Me: ….

Djinn: (insert character name) dies at the end of the book. BYE!

Me: AHHHH!!!

Kinda like that. Only, repeat it about seven different times during the book. I’m not kidding. I had a 23 chapter outline with each chapter designed and the characters solidified. Three years later, I ended up with a trilogy. Part of that is thanks to Djinn. You jerk.

At this point, I’m scrambling to redo my notes, add in the extra outlines, getting dragged somewhere else and watching my characters poof and reappear with different histories. It’s no wonder I can’t keep eye color or hair color straight. Things change halfway through! And that’s just the writing process.

Editing: Why do I do this to myself? 

Editing comes next, and you would think that’s pretty straight forward. Later on it is, but in the beginning, I find parts of the story that need tweaking, scenes that need rewriting…and additional characters who need more on-page time.

Djinn, for example.

I read through the entire book to check for continuity/plot errors first. There’s no sense in polishing the text if I’m going to have to change scenes anyway or cut chapters (though I understand other authors feel differently).

After fixing the plot, then comes the check for details: did I spell names correctly, are character appearances the same throughout the book, have I overused words (part 1), did I use the right words?

Once all of that is cleared up, and I realize I wrote “sequins” instead of “synchronize” (yay NaNoisms), I start destroying words (part 2). My editor, or co-creator, point out words I overuse (pariah, information, and was being three of them). I put them into search, and I try to destroy them as much as possible. It helps with the “show don’t tell” aspect as well, especially when I focus on using a word other than “was.” It may mean restructuring sentences or whole paragraphs, but if it makes the text sound better in the end, I’m fine with that.

After that, I do a few more readings of the book, but I use a different medium each time. Stage 1: 12 pt Font, Times Roman Numeral, Single Spaced. Stage 2: 12 pt Font, Times Roman Numeral, Double Spaced. Stage 3: Blow up screen to 150% to go over each paragraph carefully. Stage 4: Read the chapters out of order so I edit the language more than the plot. Etc. Some books take more rounds than others. I use different mediums, though, because it helps me catch things since it’s like I’m looking at the book for the first time.

I have an editor also fixing my book and sensitivity readers or beta readers reviewing it at the same time.

The final edit is reading through the book one last time and only checking for egregious errors.

Books are never really done. I can open The Purple Door District and Wolf Pit now and still change things. Heck, 10 years from now I’ll want to change them. But at some point, you have to let your baby go, take wing, and fly into the hands of other readers.

That was a bit longer than I anticipated, but that’s essentially my process. No writing process is perfect, and no one can tell you how you should write. You have to make it personal to yourself and adjust it as you find things that work better.

What about you? What’s your style?

2020 Goals

How is it January 7th already? 2019 felt like it was never going to end, and then, bam, we’re seven days into the new year. Like many people, I like creating goals for myself at the beginning of each year. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t, but at least it puts me on a path to, hopefully, complete a few things. Last year one of my main goals was to publish Wolf Pit, and I managed to do that, albeit at the last second.

This year, I want to talk about both writing and personal health goals for myself. I’m hoping by posting them here, it’ll help keep me accountable. Not only that, you’ll have a little preview of what to expect from me this year!

Writing Goals: 

  • PDD Book 3: I plan to write and edit Purple Door District book 3. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to publish it in 2020 due to circumstances that happened in 2019. Let’s just say I didn’t give the book as much love and care as I would have liked, and I want to make sure I do book 3 justice. I don’t want to rush it.
  • Dragon Steal: I put my YA LGBT dragon book on hold to finish up Wolf Pit. Well, after much consideration, I’m planning to heavily edit Dragon Steal, rewrite the pitches, and submit the book both to agents and to #pitmad on Twitter. I’m really excited to work on the book again because I love and miss the characters. It’ll be a nice break from the world of The Purple Door District as well. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the series. However, I struggled with a lot of depression while writing and editing it, so I think it’s good I’m taking a slight break.
  • Anthologies: I intend to write more short stories and poetry to submit to local anthologies. I already have plans to create pieces (hopefully) for Fiction-Atlas Press LLC. Ideally, I want to submit to anthologies that provide royalties or pay to help with publication costs, but just having my story in print is awesome too!
  • Writing Grants: I’m going to apply for some writing grants to help fund my writing career while I’m still getting on my feet. As I’ve talked about in a few posts, self-publishing is not cheap, and it takes until book 2 or 3 to start seeing a little income. I’m still not quite at that point, so if I get grants that can help me produce these books, I’ll be ecstatic.
  • Fates and Furies: Alongside The Purple Door District, I’d like to get back into working on the Fates and Furies series with my co-author AE Kellar. Oh my gosh, we have so many stories to tell you!
  • Blog: Yes, my dears, I plan to resume blogging once a week. If you have particular topics you want me to discuss, please let me know. Part of the reason I stopped near the end of last year was because I ran out of ideas! That and Wolf Pit was trying to eat my soul.
  • Author Interviews: Author Interviews will start up again this Friday. I’ll post them on social media and host them on my site two times a month. I think that’ll give me a little more breathing room. If you’re a published author looking for a place to be interviewed, fill out the form here.
  • Patreon/Wattpad: Yes, I do still intend to post to Patreon once a month, likely starting in February. I need a break to get more writing prepared. Likewise, I want to post to Wattpad as well. If you haven’t read The Purple Door District, you can find it on there under my account. The first chapter of Wolf Pit will be up shortly as well.

Health Goals: 

  • Sleep: I’ve talked about struggling with sleep before and how it’s affected my health and creativity. I’m working with a sleep specialist who is helping me get more rest at night. Basically I was only getting about 2-4 hrs of solid sleep every night this time last year. I’m almost to 6 1/2 hrs now, which has made a world of difference. I want to get up to 7 1/2 hours.
  • Gym: I plan to start working out again. I know it improves my mood, my sleep, and my health. Unfortunately, due to injuries and bad experiences at the gym, I’m struggling to walk back through those doors. I’m trying exposure therapy, meaning, I’m taking it one step at a time. Today I went into the gym for the first time in months. I almost had a panic attack, but I managed to make it there. Little by little, I’ll work out and add time to my routines. I have to do this for myself.
  • Mental Health: I continue to use my therapy lights, see my therapists, and go to support groups both for my depression/anxiety, and weight. I broke mentally in February 2019, and I do not want that to happen again. So I’m working to be kinder to myself and more understanding. It may lead to me stepping back from things so I can take care of myself, but I’ll do what’s necessary. I’d like to be here for a long time.

So, I might be biting off more than I can chew, but when it comes down to it, I need to make my mental health my priority, even if it puts things on the back burner.

What about you? What goals do you have for 2020?

Dealing With Deadlines

You may have noticed that I took a break from writing posts in November. No, it wasn’t because of NaNoWriMo, unfortunately. It was due to me needing to focus entirely on editing and finishing up Wolf Pit. I’m happy to say, the files were approved by Ingramspark, and I clicked print today.

NaNo resulted in about 400 words, which is the first time in many years that I’ve lost. I was up against several tight deadlines, and while the book will indeed come out on the 14th, I won’t have the printed copies in hand. Not exactly the results I had hoped for, but at least the book will launch, and it’s given me some time to really understand the importance of setting up reasonable deadlines.

When I wrote The Purple Door District, I completed the first draft in November 2017, over a year before it would come out. I decided around March 2018 that I wanted to publish the book, so I worked to get an editor and started my marketing campaign.  I spent months editing, promoting, finding artists, creating swag, lining up readings and places for the launch. It was nonstop, however, I evened out my deadlines enough that I was able to edit the book in a reasonable amount of time, create a proof copy, and get the paperbacks with weeks to spare. In the end, the launch went great, the book ended up being around 73,000 words, and the pieces came together.

Wolf Pit was much different. I wrote 50,000 words of the book in November 2018, expecting it to come out around December 2019. But then roadblocks got in the way and my health plummeted. Writer’s block forced me to put the pen down, and I ended up in the hospital twice in early 2019 both for cellulitis and mental health issues. When I finally came out of it, it still took me longer than I had hoped to finish the book. I was still shaky with the deadline, but I thought December would still work, so I pushed to get it done. What I didn’t account for was the fact that the book was over 100,000 words, my team and I would run into life and health issues, and printing times would change. In the end, I will still have a book out on December 14th, but I wish I had had more time.

So what does that mean for book 3? Well, first off, since I was completely devoted to Wolf Pit in November, book 3 did not get written. So after I take about a month off, I’ll start writing it. A printing date will not be decided until long after I’ve started the edits so I can produce the best book for my readers.

I know now that if I had the chance to go back and do things differently, I would have written all three books before I even published the first one so I didn’t run into these issues. That’s the ideology I followed for my medieval fantasy (even if that’s still sitting on the back burner), and it made the books stronger because elements that popped up in book 3, I had to add in book 1. That’s not to say I don’t have an outline for PDD 3, but I think this would have helped with the deadlines and the stress that came with the mishaps over the past year.

So what can you do to set up, and stick to, deadlines for your book or creative piece?

  • Cushion Time: Set up an initial deadline with plenty of cushion. If you run into trouble, you’ll still have extra time to get the work completed.
  • Be Considerate of Everyone’s Schedules: Don’t overexert yourself or the people helping you. Make sure you’re giving everyone a reasonable amount of time to get the work done so no one has to rush, especially when polishing the final piece.
  • Change the Final Dates: Be willing to adjust final dates. As an indie author, it’s a lot easier to change the publication date than in traditional publishing. If you don’t think the book will be done on time, or it’s not as polished as it could be, push the deadline. Yes, it may frustrate some people that it’s not coming out when promised, but I think most people would be happy to wait for a cleaner story.
  • Personal Time: Create down time for yourself. Seriously, pushing yourself to work on the project every single day is not good for your health. You need to allow yourself time to rest so you can come at it refreshed.
  • Ask For Help: Whether it’s with marketing, revising, or formatting, don’t be afraid to reach out to your community and ask for aid. I never would have been able to get Bianca’s necklaces done for book 1 had Amanda Bouma not helped me. And my eyes were so tired after  reading Wolf Pit, I was happy to rely on AE Kellar to give the book formatting a final review.
  • Calendar: Keep a planner or calendar handy to help you visually plot the days when you want things to get done. Mark any days that may give you trouble, or days you know you’ll have extra time to work to make up for any setbacks.
  • Make Lists: Set up lists of things you need to get done to help you reach deadlines. Make sure to include even the little things, because it’s really satisfying to mark off tons of tasks.

You can find other tips here:

What do you do to help you stay in line with your deadlines?

Writing Update October 2019

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a writing update post, and with NaNo on the horizon, I thought now would be a good time.

To begin, let’s talk about Wolf Pit.

Comingsoon

The edits are coming along steadily. My editor was really pleased with the changes I made and said that it has helped with the flow of the story as well as with character development. I should be getting the edits back by tomorrow, and then I’ll go through another round of reviewing the book. Ideally, we’ll edit it a couple more times, then I’ll have a proofreader go through and catch any final errors. While she’s doing that, I’ll print a rough copy just so I can make sure it’s going to come out okay. The deadline might be tight, but I think we’ll make it for the December 14th publication date!

I have a launch party planned at M and M Bookstore on the day of release, so if you’re in the Cedar Rapids area, come visit me and check out the store! I’m still looking for a location in Iowa City to host an evening launch.

If you haven’t read The Purple Door District, and you’re a Wattpad user, I’m currently posting the chapters to the book here. All chapters will be posted before Wolf Pit drops. Or, if you become a patron on patreon, you can read the arc for as low as $1.

The Purple Door District is also a quarterfinalist for the Epic Fantasy Fanatics Reader’s Choice Awards. We’re heading into the final round, and I’m both excited and nervous.

EFF

Anthologies 

I mentioned over the summer/fall that I had pieces chosen for anthologies. Well, one came out yesterday, and the other is coming out at the end of this year. The first is Unknown Realms: A Fiction-Atlas Press Anthology. 

Unknown realms

The anthology includes many incredible authors who tell tales about visiting different realms. My story, “Fae Protection Services” finally found a place to call home.

Blurb: Cadenza Wilde is no stranger to rescuing children from cruel guardians, especially when magic is involved. A fae with magical earth powers, she uses her talents both in her world of Apsaras and in the human realm. When word reaches Cade that children are suddenly going missing, the Pied Piper is her first suspect. And he has his eyes on her charge, Elena. It’s a race against time for Cade to save Elena before the Piper can whisk the child away into his dark realm forever.

You can purchase the kindle version here. Paperback will be coming out soon.

The second anthology I’m proud to announce is Twisted Ever After Anthology by The Otherworld. The anthology focuses on retelling fairy tales in a new and intricate way.

twisted ever after

My story, “Red Moon,” may be one that my patrons remember. It’s a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood with a wolf shifter, a ghostly Huntsman, and a witchy grandmother. This book should be coming out around December in kindle form.

I’ve had a lot of success with short stories this year, and I’m hoping to start writing a mix of them again for contests in 2020. Ideally I’ll focus mostly on urban fantasy, but I have to say that I enjoyed writing a horror story and retelling a fairy tale.

ICON44

ICON44 is Cedar Rapids’ biggest fantasy/sci-fi convention. This year I’ll both be a speaker and a dealer. I’ll be sitting on several panels talking about topics like character development, Game of Thrones, Steven Universe, and more. Throughout the days, I’ll also sell my books and swag in the dealer room. Leading up to the event, I’m going to be signing at Barnes & Noble from 6-8pm with several other authors on Thursday, October 31st (yes, Halloween). ICON lasts from Friday, November 1st, to Sunday, November 3rd. On Friday, November 1st, I’ll also be doing a reading at Half Price Books in Cedar Rapids, so feel free to stop by and say hi! It’s going to be a crazy weekend.

NaNoWriMo

In about two days, NaNoWriMo 2019 kicks off. For those of you who don’t know, during the month of November, writers try to write 50,000 words. I’ve done it about 10 times and won 9 times. This year I plan to work on The Purple Door District Book 3 (currently unnamed). I’m also finishing up Wolf Pit at the same time. Do I think I’ll win? Maybe. All I know is I’m not going to sacrifice Wolf Pit’s quality to meet a word count. At the very least, I’ll get started on book 3 and hopefully figure out the middle of the story. As usual, I know the beginning and the end and that’s it, hah.

Are you participating in NaNo? If so, feel free to add me as a buddy. My username is SilverRose Brighteye.

Happy writing!

 

Preparing for NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, and writers are either outlining their latest and greatest masterpiece or waiting until the last minute when inspiration strikes at midnight. Each year I talk a little bit about NaNo, so I thought I’d share some preparation information that Alex and I wrote for The Writers’ Rooms and has been modified for classroom use. A lot of these tips can actually be used in your everyday writing as well, so even if you’re not doing NaNo, you can still benefit. 

It’s that time of year again. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, and writers are either outlining their latest and greatest masterpiece or waiting until the last minute when inspiration strikes at midnight. Each year I talk a little bit about NaNo, so I thought I’d share some preparation information that Alex and I wrote for The Writers’ Rooms and has been modified for classroom use. A lot of these tips can actually be used in your everyday writing as well, so even if you’re not doing NaNo, you can still benefit.

If you’re looking to add a buddy to your list, I’m SilverRose Brighteye.

What is NaNoWriMo? 

NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month! Writers get together and attempt to write 50k words (1667/day) in the month of November.  NaNo has spawned a ton of offshoots as well: NaPoWriMo (poetry), NaNoEdMo (editing), and… more (http://www.wikiwrimo.org/wiki/List_of_timed_artistic_challenges)

Camp NaNo: A less-stressful version of NaNo that is held twice over the spring/summer months that allows you to set your own word count or editing goal.

Story A Day: Write one short story a day for the month of May–there’s no word limit, and if you don’t finish your story you move on to the next one at midnight.

YeahWrite: Online community which provides weekly writing challenges, and editorial review with a membership.

52-Week Writing Challenge: Write something (anything!) once a week for a year.

NaNoWriMo Website: https://nanowrimo.org/

Perks of Signing Up on the Website:

  • Finding your community through the Region feature
  • Meeting and friending fellow writers
  • Keeping track of your word count
  • Receiving updates on local group meetups (Iowa City and Cedar Rapids both have NaNo groups).
  • Validating word count and receiving awesome rewards (discount on Scrivener, discounts on editing and publishing programs, etc).

Pre-planning

  • Do your research on your challenge.
    • What are some pitfalls other writers fall into? NaNo usually provides helpful tips through the month on how to get through the challenge.
    • What are your general goals?
    • What resources does NaNo provide?
  • Think about your goals.
    • Are you going to stick hard and fast to the challenge’s goals, or are you going to adjust them for yourself? (ie. will you write 1667 words a day, or will you aim to write more on the weekend to create buffers?)
    • How are you hoping to grow as a writer?
    • What would you like to do with the finished product?
  • Create a schedule.
    • Check your calendar for days you’ll be able to write vs days you can’t get much done.
    • Schedule sleep (seriously, you need rest).
    • Hold yourself accountable.

Resources:

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/nanowrimo-prep-30-tips-resources-strategies-for-writing-a-book-in-30-days

Are you a plotter?

  • Think about how much work you want to do before NaNo starts.
    • Do you want to worldbuild?
    • Do you want to outline?
    • Do you want to create character biographies?
  • Do the structural work.
    • Plan out your daily writing time.
    • Get your Scrivener project (or whatever file system you use) in order and ready for your writing spree.
    • Put together your world-building materials and research so they’re at hand when you’re writing.
    • Have your outline ready to go.

Are you a pantser?

  • Gather inspiration.
    • When it hits you, write down sketches of ideas or characters.
    • Put together a playlist of music for your book.
    • Read or watch works that you’re going to get inspiration from–what has similar tones, settings, or magic/tech systems to your writing?
  • Get ideas together.
    • Set up mini-challenges for yourself for when things get tough.
    • Set up a quiet, inspirational space to write in.
    • Set up self-care plans so you take care of yourself mentally and physically during the challenge.

Resources:

https://www.apronwarrior.com/nano-prep-nano-jar.html

http://pikespeakwriters.blogspot.com/2014/10/your-guide-to-nano-prep.html

Tips During NaNo:

  • Create buffers:
    • If you have days you can write more, fill up that word counter just in case you have to take breaks later on.
  • Participate in writing sprints:
    • NaNo is all about writing and not editing. Schedule 10 minute writing sprints with friends where you race to write as much as you can in 10 uninterrupted minutes.
  • Find a support team:
    • Find friends who write NaNo too so you can commiserate with them when your characters are driving you nuts. Turn to them for support and guidance.
  • Set up writing “meetings”:
    • Set up times for yourself that you treat like meetings. Do homework, clubs, social events around that time so you can be sure to have enough time to write.
  • Don’t Edit:
    • NaNo is a time for writing. You can clean up the language and any errors later one. Editing will slow you down and possibly cause you to lose words.
  • Update Your Word count:
    • Make sure to update your word count every night so you can see the progress you’re making. Even if you don’t think you can make 50,000 words, be proud of the work that you end up doing. Whether you write 2,000 words or 50,000, that’s still more than what you had before.
  • Sleep, eat, and breathe:
    • Remember to go to meals, get rest, and take breaks here and there. A 50,000 word challenge is intense, but you need to take care of yourself.

Productivity Tools

  • Write or Die (or other pressure inducing apps): These apps encourage you to write without stopping, otherwise your text will be erased.
  • (Offtime) app: Disables specific apps on your mobile phone, but allows you to access apps you may still need. Difficult to disable, so it forces you to stay focused. You can use Forest app which allows you to grow a tree while you work and kills it when you stop.
  • (Internet blocker): An online app that will block you from using the internet for a certain amount of time.
  • Motivational posters/memes/calendars: Have these set up in your work area, so if you start feeling stressed or down, take a break and look at those.
  • Musical playlist: Put together music that inspires you to write. You can make specific ones for different stories/books.

Mental Health

  • Take care of yourself. Life gets hard. If you feel like you’re pushing yourself or writing is stressing you out too much, take a break and step back.
  • It’s okay to change projects. You’re not a failure for not completing one before moving on to another. Sometimes we need a change of pace, and there’s nothing wrong with that. NaNo challenges you to write 50,000 words in a month. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stick to one project.
  • Don’t let your goals get in the way of you taking care of yourself. The better rested and fed you are, the better you’ll be able to think and write.
  • Reach out to your writing support group when you’re having a hard time so they can remind you that you can do this!
  • Jot down an emergency list of “What to Write When You Hate What You’re Writing”: Specific world building questions, backstory notes for a project, things to research later, or just your feelings on why writing is difficult for you right now.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Don’t compare your progress to the progress of other writers. Work to your own pace. That’s what matters.

I.O.W.A. 2019 Weekend

On September 7th and 8th, readers had the chance to visit over 20 authors at the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Over the course of the two-day event, they sat on panels, met new authors, listened to readings, participated in author speed dating, and challenged themselves to collect author signatures to win a grand prize. Though the weather was beautiful, and there was a Hawkeye game going on, avid readers still made their way to the signing! IMG_3560

The day kicked off with a panel about “Indie Author Publishing” with authors Tricia Andersen, JoJo Bartlett, and Mary Bleckwehl. They shared their journeys in the world of indie publishing from the costs involved, the marketing, and the troubles authors can run into with publishers when they’re writing a series.

Meanwhile, the rest of the authors greeted the first guests of the day in Beems. The room could have easily fit 30 tables, and provided plenty of space for authors to break out their displays and show off their books and swag.

IMG_3594
Author Leslie Kung and Concierge of The Cedar Room, the Cedar Rapids all-genre Room.
IMG_3571
Author Beth Hudson and the designer for our I.O.W.A. pamphlet.
IMG_3568
Author Myron Williams and fellow I.O.W.A. programmer.

As the day went on, readers had the opportunity to sit in and listen to the authors read from their books.

RC Reading
Author R.C. Davis
Teresa readig
Author Teresa Holmgren

When 1pm rolled around, I.O.W.A. kicked off its first ever Author Speed Dating. Authors sat at tables in the Greyhound Cafe while readers got a chance to sit with them for three minutes to learn about their books and ask questions. When the bell rang, readers moved to the next author. There were three rounds; romance, wild card, and fantsy/sci-fi. While readers were a bit shy of the experience at first, we hope repeating it a few times will encourage people to sit with the authors and find their next favorite book.

Sunday welcomed I.O.W.A. with a dreary, rainy day, (perfect weather for writing in my opinion). But the panels, readings, and signing went on! Authors covered topics about “The Writing Parent” and “The Creative Process.”

Every person who attended I.O.W.A. received a swag bag, with the first 50 containing books! A big thank you to M and M Bookstore for providing the bags and to the Coralville Public Library for providing the books!

Swag

All-in-all it was a fun event that has the potential to grow in years to come. Plans are already being put into place for I.O.W.A. 2020 with authors and volunteers providing feedback and suggestions to make the next event even better.

As always, a big thank you goes out to everyone who attended, and to the incredible volunteers who put the event together: Eliza David, Betsy Casey, Emily Schulz, Ross T Byers, Myron Williams, Leslie Kung, Brandi Parsons, Derek Maurer, Dana Beatty, Beth Hudson, Terri LeBlanc, and more. This is certainly a writing community that I’m proud to call my own.

For more pictures, visit our facebook page. To learn more about I.O.W.A. and The Writers’ Rooms, visit http://www.thewritersrooms.org.

 

 

How to Write a Synopsis (The Writers’ Rooms)

As you may know, I’m the Director of The Writers’ Rooms, a literary organization focused on providing a free, safe environment to all writers, no matter their experience, income, gender, etc. The specific “Room” I lead is The Violet Realm, which is our Sci-fi/Fantasy group. What’s a Room, you ask? It’s a two-hour session with a literary lesson during the first hour and then free writing/sharing the second hour. We have a plethora of groups ranging from poetry, romance, LGBT, all-genre, with more coming soon! The community is wonderful, and I’m thankful for every person who brings their story to us. Best of all, the Rooms are free.

Tonight, we talked about how to write a synopsis. I thought I’d share it with you so you could get an idea of the information that The Writers’ Rooms has to offer, and also provide some tips on how to prep a synopsis for querying an agent.

What is a synopsis? A synopsis is, in short, the summary of your story. You’ll need this if you’re querying a traditional publisher. But, this is also a great way for you to figure out the main plot of your story! 

Rules of thumb: 

  • Only name your MC and main villain (typically only 3 characters at most). Briefly outline their roles so you can refer back to them throughout the synopsis. The first time you list the name, write it in all caps. 
  • A good synopsis should only be about 500 words. Any longer, and an agent may toss it out the window, or you may realize you have some work to do.
  • You must tell the whole story, including the ending gasp! The agent has to know where the story’s going, and so do you! 
  • Focus on the main plot, not any of the subplots. The subplots are for the book. 
  • You need to know what your characters want and make the plot out of that. What are their ultimate goals? 

How to Set Up the Synopsis

You may remember from a previous session that we talked about the Beat Sheet to set up your entire story. Making your synopsis is very similar. Together, we’ll take a look at an amazing resource called “How to Write a 1-Page Synopsis”  with a little flare added. Source is at the bottom. 

 

  • Set the Scene: Create the stage for your world and your characters. We need to know what genre/timeline you’re focusing on. Fantasy? Show us the castle. Science Fiction? Show us the ship and the world. Enchant us with the very first line.
  • Introduce the Protagonist: Bring in your Main Character (in all caps). We want a couple descriptive words to say what he/she wants, and to help us identify him/her. Blacksmith? Banker? Butler? Let us know! 
  • Inciting Incident: Yes, we’re taking a trip to Freytag’s Pyramid. What event, decision, or change prompts the main character to act? Is it a death in the family? A murder? A young boy buying a robot with a hidden message? 
  • Plot Point #1: This is where we get into the first big change in the story. What’s the first turning point? What does the MC do to change the book’s direction? This is the point where your heroine might start out on her journey to travel to a different planet or go on an epic quest. 
  • Conflict and Other Characters: Your character enters a new world/environment. What new life experience does she have? How does she meet the antagonist/villain? This is also a chance for you to bring in, say, a love interest. But again, only include important characters. 
  • Midpoint: This is the point when the MC may have to make a 180 degree change or emotion in the story. Once she crosses this line, she can’t go back. She makes a decision that changes everything. Or maybe her cowardly nature turns to heroism. 
  • We’re Winning! Whoops, No We’re Not: Reveal when your MC thinks she has the upper hand but then the antagonist swoops in to ruin everything. Maybe a magical item gets stolen, or an escaping ship gets shot down. For once, the villain has the advantage.
  • Darkest Night: This is when your MC has hit rock bottom. She has to fight through it both emotionally and physically. Maybe the villain has trapped her. Maybe she’s had everything taken away. How does she find the strength to enter the final battle? 
  • Climax: Battle time! What happens when the MC and the antagonist come head-to-head? Yes, we do need the conclusion. 
  • Resolution: How does the climax end? Does everyone live happily ever after, or are we doing a Shakespearean ending and killing everyone? How do you tie up loose ends, and loose romances? 
  • Closing Scene: What’s the last scene you want to leave your reader with? Has the MC won or failed? Is there a future waiting? We want to know! 

 

Prompts: 

  1. Take your story and write a synopsis. Use the outline above to separate out each important moment from your plot. 
  2. Think of a new story and use the outline to plot it out.